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‘Excise trouble, goons’: IFB Agro approves Rs 40 cr poll bonds to ease doing business in Bengal

IFB Agro has hinted at being intimidated in the past as well. It had also claimed that it had approved political contributions of up to Rs 25 cr in 2021-22.

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New Delhi: Kolkata-based distillery and bottling company IFB Agro Ltd has said that it has agreed to fund political parties by purchasing electoral bonds worth up to Rs 40 crore in the current financial year (2022-23) allegedly after facing some excise-related issues that hindered its business.

The claim, which did not name any political party, was made by the company Friday in a disclosure to stock exchanges.

This is not the first time that the company has made such a disclosure hinting at being intimidated.

In June 2020, IFB Agro had made another exchange filing in connection with an attack by “a group of more than 150 armed goons” on its distillery in Noorpur of West Bengal’s South 24-Parganas.

In December that year, the company again brought up the June attack in an exchange filing, stating that no offenders have been brought to book yet, despite it requesting help from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as the finance, commerce and industry ministers of the state.

IFB Agro had said that its alcohol business was “under threat”.

In Friday’s statement, signed by the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Rahul Choudhary, and filed with the exchanges, the company said that in the wake of “such issues” and in “best interest of the company” have approved contributions to political parties of not more than Rs 40 crore.

“The board of directors in its 31 March meeting considered such issues, and in the best interest of the company and all its stakeholders decided to approve contributions to political parties by way of subscription to electoral bonds in one or more tranches aggregating not more than Rs 40 crore for the financial year 2022-23,” the statement said.

The company said its board of directors had now capped the contributions at Rs 40 crore from Rs 25 crore in 2021-22.

“We write in continuation to our earlier letters to the stock exchanges wherein we have intimated about excise-related issues being faced by/affecting the company,” it added.

The company, however, had not come up with a statement clarifying if the increase in political contribution was a result of intimidation.
The exchange filing holds significance as electoral bonds were introduced by the Centre as instruments to protect the identities of those making donations to political parties. Companies typically purchase electoral bonds through trusts.

Also Read: Electoral bonds put over Rs 1,200 cr into parties’ kitties this poll season, govt data reveals


‘Singled out for not succumbing to illegal demands’

In the June 2020 exchange filing, IFB Agro had furnished details of the connection with an attack by “a group of more than 150 armed goons” on its distillery in Noorpur.

“These unidentified hooligans, armed with various types of weapons, forcibly entered the factory, beat up the security guards and practically held our employees/workers on duty hostage. They also damaged the CCTV cameras, computers, medical room etc. inside the factory,” the company statement had said, adding that it had to shut its factory down following the attack.

Soon after the incident, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhary had called the incident “just the tip of the iceberg”, while Trinamool Congress’ Kalyan Banerjee had said that the issue was “blown out of proportion” intentionally.

In the exchange filed in December that year, the company again brought up the June attack on its Noorpur distillery, stating they have been “singled out”.

“The alcohol business of the company has been suffering — and is under threat, as we have been singled out by certain excise officials for not succumbing to their illegal demands…have requested the hon’ble chief minister of West Bengal and also hon’ble finance, commerce and industry ministers of the state to look into/investigate the same,” the December 2020 filing read.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)


Also Read: Cash-mukt Congress soon? Data shows leadership crisis is not party’s only problem since 2014


 

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